Rockets Beat L.A. For 1st Win


For the first time this season, the Houston Rockets won. For the first time as Los Angeles Lakers coach, Phil Jackson got tossed.

The Rockets, taking advantage of Shaquille O'Neal's one-game suspension, went to the hoop often and successfully Friday night to down the Lakers 97-81 and end their five-game losing streak to start the season.

Houston was without Charles Barkley, who also was serving a one-game suspension for fighting with O'Neal two nights earlier.

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  • Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said of each team missing a star: "I love Charles, but that's a pretty good trade."

    Steve Francis scored 22 points for Houston and Carlos Rogers added 16, making all of his six shots from the floor and all four free throws.

    Meanwhile, Jackson, who had complained about O'Neal losing his cool recently, was ejected in the third quarter when he drew two quick technicals for complaining about the officiating.

    "I wasn't going to stay around and watch that kind of a ball game," Jackson said. "I think the fans probably understand because they left about the same time I did.

    "It was a rabbit-eared official that got me out of that game."

    Even with O'Neal ejected along with Barkley early in the second quarter of Wednesday night's game, the Lakers won 89-88.

    In the rematch, however, the Lakers played mostly miserably, shooting just 34 percent from the field. Their leading scorer, Glen Rice, had 11 points on 2-of-12 shooting.

    "We had the same type of shots we had the previous game against them, but tonight they didn't go in for us," Rice said.

    A.C. Green, Derek Fisher and reserve Tyronn Lue had 10 points each in the loss.

    Los Angeles' Robert Horry, back after being sidelined with a sore knee, had one word for the Lakers' performance: "Awful."

    He added, "Shaq makes it a lot easier for the rest of us because he draws so much attention. We can get open easier and people can't leave him."

    The Rockets five losses to open the season was their worst start since 1992.

    Snapping their 1999 slump, they scored many of their points on drives. O'Neal's absence in the middle was an obvious defensive weakness, as John Salley, Travis Knight and Green were largely ineffective sharing the duty at center for the Lakers.

    Houston essentially took control of the game in the first quarter, with a 15-0 run for a 19-6 lead. Los Angeles went scoreless for three minutes during that stretch.

    The Lakers got no closer than five points, at 23-18 early in the second quarter, the rest of the way.

    Houston was up 52-36 by halftime and led 76-54 after three quarters.

    Notes

  • O'Neal also was fined $10,000 by the NBA for throwing a punch at Barkley and Barkley fined $5,000 for throwing the basketball at O'Neal.
  • Jackson also was fined earlier in the week, $5,000 for criticizing the officiating after last Saturday's 97-82 loss to Portland. Jackson tore into the officials after O'Neal was ejected from that game with two technicals.
  • Horry, activated earlier in the day after being sidelined with a sore knee, played 14 minutes and scored four points for the Lakers.

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